US braces for hurricane on July 4 holiday

Last updated 19:43 03/07/2014
Hurricane Arthur
APPROACHING: Tropical Storm Arthur is pictured off the east coast of Florida in this July 1 NASA handout satellite photo.

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Arthur strengthened to a hurricane early Thursday (overnight NZ time) and threatened to upend Americans’ plans for Friday’s Independence Day up and down the East Coast.

 

Authorities began closing campgrounds, lighthouses and beaches on Wednesday on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where up to 200,000 visitors crowd the Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

A mandatory evacuation order for Hatteras Island forced some to change vacation plans.

 

North Carolina braced itself for a glancing blow ahead of the holiday, prompting the governor of the southern state to warn vacationers along its coast not to risk their safety by trying to salvage their picnics and barbecues.

The National Hurricane Center predicted Arthur would swipe the coast early Friday with winds of up to 136 kph.

The storm would be off the coast of New England later Friday and eventually make landfall in Canada’s maritime provinces as a tropical storm, the Hurricane Center predicted.

Up north in Boston, one of America’s signature Fourth of July events, the annual Boston Pops outdoor concert and fireworks show, was moved up a day because of potential heavy rain ahead of the hurricane.  

The performance takes place along the Charles River Esplanade, with fireworks set off from barges on the river. Hundreds of thousands of people usually attend.

Organisers and public safety officials said the celebration was rescheduled for Thursday, which appeared to be the best of two potential bad weather days.

Arthur, the first named storm of the Atlantic season, prompted a hurricane warning for much of the North Carolina coast.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for coastal areas in South Carolina and Virginia.  

Forecasters expect Arthur to whip past the North Carolina’s Outer Banks islands on Friday without making landfall, but Gov. Pat McCrory warned vacationers along the coast not to risk their safety by trying to salvage their picnics, barbecues and pre-paid beach cottage vacations.

‘‘Don’t put your stupid hat on,’’ McCrory said.

On the Outer Banks’ Ocracoke Island, accessible only by ferry, a voluntary evacuation was underway.

A mandatory evacuation for Hatteras Island visitors began at 5 am (local time).

Outer Banks residents and out-of-town visitors who fail to evacuate ahead of the hurricane’s expected arrival should prepare for possibly getting stuck for several days without food, water or power, National Hurricane Center forecaster Stacy Stewart said Thursday.

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‘‘We want the public to take this system very seriously, go ahead and start their preparations because time is beginning to run out,’’ he said.

Before sunset Wednesday on Route 12, which links North Carolina’s coast and some of the Outer Banks islands, a long line of vehicles formed a steady stream of traffic.

The road has been sliced apart twice in recent years as storms cut temporary channels from the ocean to the sound.

The road is easily blocked by sand and water.

 

A mandatory evacuation order for Hatteras Island forced some to change vacation plans.

Dave Dawson, owner of the Cape Hatteras Motel said he was completely booked for the holiday but planned to close.

''We are calling people right now apprising them of the situation so they can make other plans,'' he said.

Despite the evacuation order, not all residents of the 80 kilometre island said they were leaving.

''It will be impossible for us to return back to our house,'' said retired teacher Elizabeth Mullen, who plans to ride out the storm with her husband in Salvo, midway on the island.

''We have only left for two storms in the 41 years we have lived here,'' she added, noting she had stayed through at least a dozen previous storms.

There are currently 35,000 people on Hatteras Island, Dare County spokeswoman Dorothy Killingsworth estimated on Wednesday.

 

A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when top sustained winds reach 119 kph. The storm remained out at sea with maximum sustained winds of 113 kph on Thursday, about 230 km south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, the Miami-based weather forecasters said.

-AP and Reuters

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